Tag Archives: film music

Soundtrack Review: The Goldfinch (2019)

The soundtrack for The Goldfinch is now available for digital purchase through WaterTower Music. The score for this film was composed by Trevor Gureckis, whose past scores include Brooklyn and Vice.

The Goldfinch is the film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s globally acclaimed best-selling novel, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. In the story, Theo Decker was 13 years old when his mother was killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love. Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day…a painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch. The Goldfinch.

Regarding the film, Trevor Gureckis had this to say:

“Writing The Goldfinch was thrilling not only because of the huge orchestral forces at hand, but also for the opportunity to explore rich textural details with the use of electronics in service of the story. There are moments of vivid impressionism in the orchestra, as well as tapestries of glowing and burning synth textures. A real turning point in figuring out this score, was when John Crowley realized we needed The Goldfinch to appear in the music itself, not just visually in the film. It would be our North Star. So, the opening cue sets the theme that returns in many different transformations depicting anything for the painting to Theo’s traumatized state of mind, as the two are so intertwined. Just like the painting of the bird chained to its post, this theme is suspended harmonically throughout the entire score resolving only in the final moments of the film,”

The soundtrack is very beautiful. I particularly enjoy the piano melodies that appear throughout the score. Having listened to so many scores that bombard me with rich, orchestral melodies, it’s a nice change of pace to hear something more delicate, and that’s definitely what this soundtrack is. It’s delicate, it’s intricate, and surprisingly moody at times (I haven’t read the book this film is based on, so my knowledge of the story is limited). It might be a bit too simple for some people’s tastes, but as I said before, sometimes a simpler score is just the thing for a film.

I’m not sure what the movie will be like, but the music shouldn’t be a disappointment. Let me know what you think about the soundtrack for The Goldfinch in the comments below and have a great day!

Tracklist:
  1. The Goldfinch
  2. Mrs. Barbour
  3. Interrogation
  4. Hobart and Blackwell
  5. Goldfinch Reveal
  6. Letter to Pippa
  7. Theo’s Burden
  8. Return to the Barbours
  9. Lucius Reeves
  10. Boris’ Father
  11. Theo and Pippa
  12. Las Vegas
  13. Desolation
  14. Civics Book
  15. Amsterdam
  16. The Story of the Goldfinch
  17. Boris Rescues Theo
  18. Beautiful Things
  19. The Goldfinch Theme – Solo Piano
  20. Currents – Solo Piano

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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An Interview with Chad Cannon, Composer of American Factory

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Chad Cannon, who composed the score for the Netflix original film American Factory. Composer Chad Cannon has traveled the world drawing inspiration from cultures, history, and human stories to create moving scores for documentaries, animation and live performances. His debut soundtrack for the documentary Paper Lanterns received an IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Awards) nomination for Best Original Score for a Documentary, and was lauded as “haunting, mystical” by The Japan Times; while his soundtrack for Cairo Declaration, co- composed with Xiaogang Ye, received China’s highest film prize, the Golden Rooster Award for Best Music. Chad most recently scored Netflix’s documentary, American Factory, which won the Best Director Award for a Documentary at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and is the first film released by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground. His other recent works include a symphonic Americana score for PBS’ documentary CyberWork and the American Dream, as well as scoring Chris Meledandri and Illumination Studios’ animated short, The Dog Days of Winter.

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How did you get started with composing for films and documentaries?

So I studied music at Harvard, I was studying music and Japanese there, and then I did my Masters at Julliard, also in composition. But all along I kind of knew…I’ve always like film, I thought it would be really cool to have a career that intersected film and music. So when I graduated from Julliard I moved to L.A. and I started working with this orchestrator named Conrad Pope, he worked for many years with John Williams, and the first project he hired me on was Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, so I got kind of dumped right in the middle of a huge film score project, and as an orchestrator it’s a little less pressure then a composer obviously, because the orchestrator’s job is really to help the composer prepare all the conducting scores in time for the recording sessions, so you’re the one putting the notes on the page eventually. So from there, I kind of transitioned into writing more for film, and I had an opportunity to score a couple of feature documentaries with my brother who directed feature films for CrossFit. …My brother just had me write some custom music for those films. And then I had this opportunity to write for a film called Paper Lanterns, which was a Hiroshima documentary about the 12 Americans who had died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. So that was my first feature doc(umentary) that was more serious and I had an opportunity to write a more rich, orchestral for that film, and it was also a crossover score where I included some traditional Japanese performers in addition to this American orchestral sound that I was creating. So that led to me being accepted into the Sundance Composer Labs which happen every summer at Skywalker Ranch, and that lab is how I got connected to the American Factory film.

How did you get involved with American Factory

The Sundance Labs people knew I’d done quite a bit of work in Asia and they thought “Oh, since this is a film that is very much connecting Asia with the U.S., maybe he would be a good match” and so they referred me to Julia [Reichert] and Steve [Bognar]  who were the directors of American Factory.

How did you approach scoring the documentary?

Well, anytime I get a new film, the first thing I like to do is experiment with new materials or new instruments, just to sort of develop a sound world that I can draw from as I start getting clips of the film. So I tried two things at first that didn’t actually end up working out very well for the film. One was, because of the glass factory I thought “What if we used glass instruments?” and had glass be the heart of the score. So I got all the glass I could find and recorded myself playing rhythms on them. I got wine glasses, and did a bunch of tones, and I tried a bunch of stuff. And Julia and Steve heard it, and were like “Oh, this is cool but it’s too ‘twinkly.’” And that’s because glass creates a lot of high overtones, which creates a “twinkly” sound. And because there’s quite a few ominous, or dark themes in the film, as well as a huge amount of factory noise, from a sound design perspective this film was very difficult because the sound designer Lawrence Stevenson had to navigate, when you’re recording the audio in the factory and it’s hard to hear, just from the amount of noise. So anyway, the glass approach didn’t really work.

And then the next thing I tried was to include traditional Chinese elements, especially from Fujian Province, which is where the Fuyao headquarters is within China, and I had happened to have been there before…Steve and Julia also considered that, but then they said “We’re Americans,  we’re from Ohio, we don’t want to make this feel like it’s exoticizing the Chinese component of this movie. Make it more universal in the approach.” So ultimately we ended up focusing on a low woodwind sound; so there’s a lot of bassoons, bass clarinets, some lower flutes like alto flutes…and the reason we went in that direction is because Julia had heard a Mozart piece called the “Gran Partita” and this piece is for woodwinds with two horns and a double bass, and it’s just a really unique instrumentation…and ultimately I think she was right in leaning in that direction, because the woodwinds’ timbre goes well against all the metallic glass timbre that you hear in the film. The factory noises are complimented by this woodwind sound, as opposed to competing with it. There’s something about that combination that ended up working nicely, and I ended up writing a lot of music for these slow woodwinds.

Were you inspired by the factory machines, because in several of the manufacturing scenes it feels like the music is mimicking the frenetic action of the glass factory

For sure, there are a lot of moments..there’s one specific moment if you remember near the end of the film, there’s a sequence where Wong is sitting next to this panel of blinking lights in the dark, he’s sitting there and there’s a voiceover where he says “I think the most important thing is mutual understanding” and he expresses this admiration for American workers who can manage having multiple jobs at once…and that sequence…the blinking lights were the trigger for the music in that scene, where if you listen there’s a lot of minimalist patterns. A lot of the American minimalists will come to a pattern and they’ll repeat it for a really long time to create this meditative state and, that’s a very common technique now in film music. That pattern that I have in that scene is very much trying to show…it’s drawing inspiration from the blinking lights on the panel. And it gets you into Wong’s mind about how things are kind of dark at that moment.

And the music when we enter the factory for the first time is also rooted, grounded in a repeating bass note. The cue is actually called “The Resurrection,” …and for me the pillars of the factory, and the weight of this machinery, all of that is finding its way into the score in these heavy bass figures that I’ve been writing.

It feels like there are different themes, or different musical sentiments for the American and Chinese sides of the story, is that so or am I imagining that?

There are no themes that are specifically Chinese or American…Thematically there’s like four or five melodic ideas that spin out, and sometimes it’s the same theme but in a dark variation, sometimes lighter. Pretty much all of the musical material is tied back to that first theme called “The Forge.” There’s a parallel fifth motif that becomes the bed of pretty much everything else that happens after that. There are also themes for the Chairman and Wong. Wong’s theme is what comes back at the very end when we see this sequence between American workers and Chinese workers leaving the factory, and it’s like this fanfare for workers. The point of this theme is that it’s where I’m trying to convey the dualism of two countries coming together. And at the very, very end, there’s a long sequence with the Chairman where all of the themes you’ve heard throughout start to come back very quietly, underneath the dialogue, revisiting the places we’ve been along the way. So there are musical themes that are attached to specific characters.

How did you decide which parts of the documentary need music, because I’ve noticed chunks that have no music at all, and it feels like a very abrupt transition between music and no music.

So the way the film is edited is by chapters, and they’ll create a scene, or a series of scenes which together comprise a chapter. And the filmmakers who are also the writers, you know documentaries are written in the editing room, they don’t have a script, they just go out and film stuff. They get all the footage and then they go back and figure out what story they captured. And they could’ve told many different stories with the footage they had. They had to go through 1200 hours of footage shot over 3 years, so it’s really an incredible feat, what they did to cut it down to the film you see now. So musically, the way this pans out in documentaries is that, first of all, as opposed to feature films, and I personally feel that feature fiction films tend to get over-scored, I’m a fan of leaving space for people to just appreciate the environment that they’re in…the whole world is full of sound and interesting environmental ambience, and there’s music everywhere if you just open up your ears.

And I feel like in film it’s really beautiful when people know not to put music, because then you can be more immersed in the reality of whatever environment you’re in, even more so in a documentary. The challenges of a documentary film composer is that you can’t be too dramatic, you can’t hit things too hard on the nose without it starting to become editorializing. They’re telling true stories and representing real people, and you have to respect that. So the choices about where not to do music were largely where Julia and Steve had told me beforehand, where they said “Oh we don’t need music for this scene, or for here.” If there was music the whole time it would just start to get in the way of what people are saying.

There was one scene where I pushed for there to be no music, which was this scene where there’s no video just the recording, where the Fuyao employee had recorded this audio of the anti-union guy persuading them to vote against the union. And originally that scene had some very ominous music in it and I ultimately told them this is already such a shock where you lose the video, that you don’t need any score there because it’s already such a change from what we’ve been doing. And it’s already so ominous that the picture’s gone.

……….

It was a great honor to be able to talk with Chad Cannon about his work on American Factory, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Let me know your thoughts about American Factory (and the soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

American Factory is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: It: Chapter Two (2019)

*note: there may be potential spoilers in the few score cues I mention, so keep that in mind as you read this review

As the thrilling conclusion to It (2017) approaches in a matter of days, the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two has been made available for those who wish to hear it in advance of seeing the film. Benjamin Wallfisch, who also scored the first film, returns to complete the musical story he began telling two years ago. In It: Chapter Two, evil resurfaces in Derry as director Andy Muschietti reunites the Losers Club in a return to where it all began. Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise, he has returned to terrorize the town of Derry once more. Now adults, the Losers have long since gone their separate ways. However, people are disappearing again, so Mike, the only one of the group to remain in their hometown, calls the others home. Damaged by the experiences of their past, they must each conquer their deepest fears to destroy Pennywise once and for all…putting them directly in the path of the shape-shifting clown that has become deadlier than ever

Regarding the soundtrack, Wallfisch had quite a lot to say:

Andy [Muschietti] has created such an ambitious and extraordinary movie in IT Chapter Two, with an incredible scope on every level.  One of our earliest discussions for the new score was how we could take what we did for the first movie and give it more scale and ambition – to reflect the scope of the film. To start with, we used a much larger orchestra and choir and also created several new themes; when we occasionally reprise moments from the first score, we re-recorded them with more complex and ambitious arrangements, like the music itself had gone through 27 years of maturing. But the most exciting challenge was how to develop the original themes and create new ones that fit alongside them. There was a lot more music required, which really allowed room for the original themes to develop and evolve in a way driven by the emotional complexity of how The Losers Club grapple with inner demons from the past and painful memories and ultimately unite to confront their biggest fears. Pennywise is even more vengeful and flagrant this time, and the music had to also reflect that increased darkness, whilst never losing sight of the adventure and emotion that are at the core of the movie. It was such a joy to reunite with my good friend Andy Muschietti to help bring this story home – the movie is a true masterpiece from the filmmakers and I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to be involved.

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The soundtrack is, in a word, terrifying. Benjamin Wallfisch had a 100 piece orchestra and a 40 person choir to work with when putting this score together, and I assure you he used it all to great effect. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that as a general rule I avoid most horror films, and the music (if done properly) is a big reason why. Wallfisch has filled the score with “jump” moments, where out of nowhere the music will surge up and almost literally snap at you. You can’t even relax during the “brighter” moments because there’s an undercurrent of tension and fear with almost every piece (“Losers Reunited” being an exception to the rule).

Musical jump scares aside, the part that freaks me out the most about this soundtrack is what Wallfisch has done with the choir (at least, I assume it’s the choir). Throughout the soundtrack, and without warning, there are sections where you hear garbled voices, kind of like if you were listening through a static-filled radio, and the voices all sound like they’re screaming in terror. Sometimes these voices act as their own music, sometimes they come in with music, but it’s without a doubt one of the most terrifying things I’ve heard in a soundtrack this year (and probably in the last few years if I’m honest).

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And another thing that Wallfisch is doing in the soundtrack that really scares me is how he manipulates the violins throughout the score. This is something I’ve heard in a lot of scary movies; it’s a technique where a group of violins plays at their highest register and quickly increases in volume and pitch, ending with an almighty shriek that has you instinctively backing up against the wall, even though you know there’s nothing there (well, at least that’s what it does to me). I can only imaging the visual context for those moments, and given this is a movie with Pennywise in it, I’m afraid to find out the answer.

Benjamin Wallfisch clearly put a lot of work into this score, and if it’s this scary by itself, I shudder to think what it would be like to hear this music with the film it was written to accompany. If you liked the score for the first It, then you will love the music for It: Chapter Two.

Let me know what you think about the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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John Lunn talks Downton Abbey, Soundtrack Will Release Next Week

Decca Records/Decca Gold has announced the upcoming release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the highly-anticipated feature film, Downton Abbey, scored by composer John Lunn. Composed in a similar style to the two-time Emmy Award-winning music from the series, the score is richly orchestrated, with the familiar title theme making an appearance throughout. In a throwback to the ‘Roaring Twenties’, upbeat jazz arrangements appear alongside lavish waltzes, reflecting the popular styles of the day.

The original television series first aired on PBS Masterpiece in the US in 2011 and has enjoyed six critically-acclaimed seasons. Downton Abbey is scheduled for cinematic release on September 13th in the UK, and September 20th in the United States. The film picks up where the story left off in the autumn of 1927, joining Lord and Lady Grantham and the extended Crawley family as they prepare for a visit from the reigning King George V. With a script by Julian Fellowes, original cast members including Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Dame Maggie Smith star alongside new cast members Imelda Staunton, David Haig and Geraldine James.

Scottish composer John Lunn writes music that possesses a unique voice and spans a wide spectrum of musical styles. He received two Primetime Emmy Awards for his music for Downton Abbey, and two BAFTA nominations in 2012 and 2016. Other recent television work includes The White Queen (Starz), Grantchester (ITV), Shetland (BBC One), The Last Kingdom (BBC Two) and Jamestown (Sky). Lunn received critical acclaim for his scores for three BBC Charles Dickens adaptations: The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Little Dorrit, and Bleak House.

Lunn was the first choice to score the film and recalls when the project was first proposed:

“I was delighted to be approached to create the feature-length film score to a series which has had a huge impact on audiences and fans all over the world. At first it was like discovering a long-lost friend, but gradually I realized that we’d never really been apart; by the end it was just such a joy to revisit this material and have the opportunity to take it to a whole new level.”

Downton Abbey: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack will be released by Decca Records/Decca Gold on September 13th, 2019.

Tracklist

1. A Royal Command
2. Pillar of the Establishment
3. Gleam and Sparkle
4. God Is a Monarchist
5. Two Households
6. Incident at A Parade
7. Sabotage
8. Maud
9. Honour Restored
10. Never Seen Anything Like It
11. Not Entirely a Bad Night
12. May I?
13. Taking Leave
14. Resolution
15. You Are the Best of Me
16. Sunset Waltz
17. One Hundred Years of Downton

Once it comes out, let me know what you think about the Downton Abbey movie and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Soundtrack Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)

I find the soundtrack of Sicario: Day of the Soldado to be an interesting case. All things being equal, I feel certain that Jóhann Jóhannsson would have returned to score the followup to Sicario, but his untimely death made that impossible. Instead, Hildur Guðnadóttir (who worked with Jóhannsson on the first film) scored the sequel.

Hildur Guðnadóttir is an Icelandic cello player, composer and singer who has manifested herself at the forefront of experimental pop and contemporary music (e.g. with the band Múm). In her solo works she draws out a broad spectrum of sounds from her instrument, ranging from intimate simplicity to huge soundscapes. Her career as a film composer is soaring, having recently scored HBO’s limited series, Chernobyl.

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Regarding the soundtrack for Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Guðnadóttir had this to say:

I think SOLDADO is more emotional than the previous film, and the score follows that direction. This one is a bit more of a ‘classical’ score, with musical themes that follow certain emotional landscapes. That is something that was important to Stefano [Sollima, director],” Guðnadóttir explained that Sicario: Day of the Soldado has “a bit of a different feel as a score because the function of it is different. That is also a direction that was important to Stefano. He was also very vocal about the fact that he did not want to recreate the Sicario soundtrack, so he often wanted to go in very different directions from Sicario.

With all due respect, I feel inclined to disagree with the above statement. Having listened to the soundtrack, this score feels very similar to the original Sicario, and I confess I didn’t get the feeling of a classical score. However, I actually don’t mind the similarities to the original score, because I felt a great sense of musical continuity listening to the soundtrack. As with the first Sicario, the music was simple, concise, reflecting the tension and angst that both of these films are known for. The music is very “lean” which is totally appropriate for this kind of film. In a film like Sicario: Day of the Soldado, a lush orchestral score would feel totally out of place. This is a story dominated by violence and the “kill or be killed” mentality. Everything is stripped down to the bare minimum, including the music, and I really like that because of how well it fits.

Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted the score (it has been a while since I watched the first Sicario), but that’s my impression of the score for Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Please don’t misunderstand, I enjoy listening to it very much, and I feel that it is very much in line with the score for the original Sicario. If there are musical departures, I’m simply not noticing them.

Let me know what you think of Sicario: Day of the Soldado and the soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My thoughts on: Sicario (2015)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

There’s a part of me that still can’t believe that a live-action movie based on Dora the Explorer exists, and yet, there it is. I’ve largely felt ambivalent about Dora and the Lost City of Gold ever since it was announced, but that’s probably due in large part to the fact that I was far too old for the Dora cartoon when it first came out in 2000, so I don’t have that connection to it that younger adults (not to mention children) might have. That being said, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to check out the film’s soundtrack, which was co-composed by John Debney and Germaine Franco.

Debney is well known in the film music world, composing music for The Princess Diaries, Sin City, Liar Liar, Spy Kids, No Strings Attached, The Emperor’s New Groove, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Hocus Pocus, just to name a few. I admit that Germaine Franco is less well-know to me personally, but her resume is also impressive. She is the first female composer to be hired by DreamWorks Animation and Pixar and is a Sundance Music Sound Design Fellow. She previously scored the feature film Little for Universal Pictures with Tina Gordon Chism, which was released in theaters in April 2019, as well as working on Tag and Life-Size 2.

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As for the soundtrack itself, it’s pretty enjoyable to listen to for the most part. Any score that has John Debney involved is going to have some good music in it, and the soundtrack is full of a number of these, one of my favorites being “Camino Real de Parapata.” On the other hand, there are a few tracks that are clearly meant to pay homage to the music of the Dora the Explorer cartoons, and these, for me, clash terribly with the rest of the soundtrack. I understand wanting to pay homage, but those musical moments aren’t my favorite compared to the more orchestral segments.

As good as the music sounds (for the most part), this soundtrack didn’t really resonate with me the way others have. As mentioned earlier, I think that’s partially because I don’t have a prior connection to Dora the Explorer to help me connect to the music. I do appreciate the work that went into the orchestral segments. They do a good job of creating a feeling of action, that sense of a chase that helps the music and the film bind more closely together. My conclusion is this soundtrack is good, but not mind-blowing.

Let me know what you think about Dora and the Lost City of Gold (and the soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

 

David Buckley Talks Angel Has Fallen (2019)

The soundtrack for Angel Has Fallen is available as of August 23rd, and it was composed by David Buckley. He has previously worked on such projects as The Good Wife, Jason Bourne, and The Nice Guys. The soundtrack is available from Milan Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks.

Angel Has Fallen is the follow up to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016). When there is an assassination attempt on U.S. President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), his trusted confidant, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), is wrongfully accused and taken into custody. After escaping from capture, he becomes a man on the run and must evade his own agency and outsmart the FBI in order to find the real threat to the President. Desperate to uncover the truth, Banning turns to unlikely allies to help clear his name, keep his family from harm and save the country from imminent danger.

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Of the soundtrack, David Buckley had this to say:

When Ric (Director) and I first discussed the direction for this score, he was keen for the music to remain in a dark space as our hero becomes a fugitive. There is some light and shade as the drama enfolds, but for a lot of the film my job was to portray a man not only on the run, but one who is fast approaching mental and physical breaking point. But there is a theme that represents light and hope, for Mike Banning’s wife, for his child, for the President and for his country.

ANGEL HAS FALLEN (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACK LISTING –

1.       The Kill Zone

2.       Drone Attack

3.       Swallowed by Trees

4.       Home Life

5.       Fishing Trip

6.       Death Threats

7.       Semi Chase

8.       Deep Regrets

9.       Resurrection

10.    Into the Abyss

11.    Hospital Breach

12.    Accepting Betrayal

13.    Atrium Firefight

14.    Final Chess Match

15.    Coup de Grace

16.    No More Secrets

17.    Angel Has Fallen

Angel Has Fallen is directed by Ric Roman Waugh from a screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook & Ric Roman Waugh, story by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt, and based on characters created by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt.

Let me know what you think about Angel Has Fallen (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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